Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Confess

Title: I Confess
Year: 1953
Studio: Warner Brothers
Screenplay: George Tabori & William Archibald
Source Material: From a play by Paul Anthelme
Running Time: 90 minutes
A black & white picture

Sunday 24th April, 8:00am
Today is Easter Sunday, so it seems kind of fitting I end up watching a film with a heavy religious theme. I started early as I am going out this afternoon to catch up with some dear friends. Sure, with it being an extra long weekend (five days thanks to Easter Monday falling on Anzac day!) I could have postponed the viewing to Monday or Tuesday, but for a lazy Sunday morning, it seemed perfectly timed. Tea and biscuits at the ready and a snuggly dressing gown enveloping me, I was all set.
I must confess (ho ho ho) that I am worried about eating too much bad stuff this weekend. I don't want to get back over 80kilograms again after working so hard to become slender over the past year. How I am going to cope with that packet of Cadbury's Creme Eggs in my 'fridge is anyone's guess.

Father Michael William Logan - Montgomery Clift
Ruth Grandfort - Anne Baxter
Inspector Larrue - Karl Malden
Willy Robertson - Brian Aherne
Otto Keller - O.E. Hasse
Pierre Grandfort - Roger Dann
Alma Keller - Dolly Haas
Father Millars - Charles Andre
Mr Villette - Ovila Légaré
Murphy - Joseph Pratt
Father Benoit - Gilles Pelletier

A man named Villette is murdered. The killer, Otto Keller removes his disguise - a priest's cassock, and heads straight to confessional where he tells Father Logan what he has done. He then returns home to confess to his wife and explains how all he wanted to do was steal $2,000 so they could start a new life. Both Otto and his wife, Alma, work at the rectory where Father Logan lives.
The following morning, Otto heads to Villette's home as he normally would do on a Wednesday morning as that is when he'd tend the garden. He then 'discovers' the body and calls the police. Logan arrives and sees the crowd. He goes to the house and tells the police he had an appointment.
A young blonde woman (Ruth Grandfort) also arrives and when Logan tells her about the murder, she is relived and says "We're free!"

Two young girls had been babysitting and were returning home late last night and they tell police they saw a priest leaving the scene of the crime some time after 11pm.
Inspector Larrue gets his man, Murphy, to enquire around town at all the rectories to find out which priests were out that night. Eventually they come to Logan who has difficulty giving a decent alibi.

Larrue contacts the crown prosecutor, Willy Robertson, who is, at that time, attending a party held by Ruth and Pierre Grandfort. Larrue says he thinks he knows who the murderer is and Ruth is worried.

Ruth feels she has to save Logan and tells the police that she was being blackmailed by Villette and she had been with Logan the night of the murder to discuss it. She then tells of the sequence of events leading up to the event from when she first met Logan and they fell in love. War came along and interrupted their romance. After a few years, she married Pierre and when the war was over, Logan returned and they spent a stormy night together on an island. She had not told him of her recent marriage. Villette discovered them and, knowing of her marriage makes nasty comments which rile Logan enough to strike him.
Years pass and Logan becomes ordained. Eventually, Villette falls on hard times and comes to Ruth in need of money - if she doesn't pay, there will be a huge scandal.

Ruth's confession provides Logan with an alibi between 9pm and 11pm but after she leaves, Larrue admits to Robertson that the autopsy states Villette dies around 11:30.
When Ruth learns that she has not only failed to provide a decent alibi but has also given a motive. They suspect Logan killed Villette to stop him from telling of their affair, even though nothing had actually been going on for years.

In court, Keller lies and frames Logan even further. Logan struggles with his oath and tries to do the right thing. Luckily, the jury find him not guilty due to insufficient evidence. However, the judge expresses his displeasure and the crowds outside are intense with some hurling abuse at the now free man whose name and reputation have been sullied by the trial.
Alma is so distressed when she sees the way the mob are treating the innocent Logan, she runs to him shouting "He's innocent". Otto panics and shots his wife. The crowd disperse and the police chase after Otto. As Alma dies, she prays for forgiveness.

At the nearby hotel, Otto runs from the police shooting a chef in the process. Eventually, he is cornered in the ballroom. He assumes Logan has betrayed him and thus confesses to all. In a showdown, he is shot and he too asks for forgiveness from the man he framed and tried to kill.

The End

Great Lines
Admittedly, there aren't any humdingers as the serious tone quashes most room for joy, but there were a couple of phrases which are of note.

Michael Logan gives a calm response and admittedly fair conclusion to Larrue's insinuations following evidence of a priest witnessed at the scene of the crime:

"Well, then, I would say a man of intelligence would not be led to believe anything on so little evidence."

Ruth's panic over her statement which may be the downfall of Logan:

"They'll twist what I've said. They'll turn it. They'll use it. I've given them what they wanted. I was going to help Michael... but I've destroyed him."

And the one slightly humorous line in the entire film comes from one of two young girl witnesses.

Larrue: "Sorry I had to drag you away from school."

Girl: "We love to be dragged away from school. Thank you!"

This is only the third time I have watched I Confess. The first time, I hate to admit it, I was bored. The second time was much more enjoyable and this time I got even more out of it.

The one thing that I feel is missing from the film is a sense of humour. The only hint of levity is in regard to Benoit and his bicycle, which isn't exactly an example of great hilarity. Even though the subject matter is serious, that has never been a problem for Hitch in the past.

Some reviewers seem keen to express their distaste and dissatisfaction about this film merely on the basis that they cannot comprehend the dilemma of Logan's position. I am not Catholic nor very religious, but to question someone's faith (even a fictional character's) is a rather weak criticism.

Although I have made a point about not listing each and every Hitchcock cameo throughout his films, I do want to mention this one as it's immediate and startlingly effective as he walks across the screen in a most artistic and beautiful shot.

Speaking of which, the film is littered with stunning visuals and fantastic camera angles. The shots of Otto walking the streets at night and then removing his disguise with his shadow looming before him; the mob scene after Logan is acquitted (mob scenes always creep me out. It's almost a sort of phobia) and the lovely sequence when Montgomery Clift (hmmm, pretty...) is battling his inner demons as he walks about town - we can see exactly what he is thinking about without one word of dialogue. Genius!

My Verdict
Strangers on a Train is a hard act to follow... Although I have come to appreciate this film more over the years, it is still only an 'average' Hitchcock movie. 6/10

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